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New direction seen for District 88

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By Kevin Beese

Changes are on the way for Bellwood School District 88, according to a member of the slate that won seats to shift control of the School Board.

“We have the majority and plan to set things in motion,” said Deborah Giles, a member of the Dream Team who won seats on both the School and Bellwood Library boards in this spring’s elections. “People will see some positive things soon. Some things may take longer to see, but they are in the works.”

Giles earned a spot on the District 88 Board, along with Dream Team incumbent Dorothy C. Smith and fellow challenger Maria D. Perez. A fourth member of their Dream Team slate, April Falco, failed to unseat incumbent Marilyn Thurman, the only member of Team 88 elected in the most recent balloting.

During a recent West Suburban Journal interview, Giles kept her cards close to the vest on what may be changed in the district.

“There will probably be some changes that we can’t speak to right now,” she said. “There are a lot of things we have to learn. We have to learn what is going on in the district. We have been out in the audience. You can’t tell from that what is going behind the scenes.

“We do not know what each person does. We are not going to do anything rash. We are going to learn and act on our plans.”

Giles, Smith, and fellow Dream Team member Constance Riales captured the three open seats on the Library Board.

“The library doesn’t have any many problems as the School District,” Giles said.

Giles has been an outspoken critic over the years of both library and School District spending. She spoke out last year when the library’s budget line item for trustees’ travel was increased to $25,000, up from $15,000 just two years ago.

Last fall, she ripped the School Board for having armed guards at their board meetings while one security officer oversees 750 children at Roosevelt School.

Giles said she would like for the existing School Board members to join with Dream Team members to change the culture of District 88.

“We’d love to extend an olive branch for them to work with us and be of one mind,” Giles said.

“We are going to accomplish what we set out to do. It would be wonderful if they are on board with that. If not, the public is going to see and it is not going to look very good if they are always voting against us. We should all want to do good for the district.”

Giles said the new School Board trustees will be planning positive changes for the children of District 88.

While tight-lipped about the coming changes in the School District, one thing Giles was willing to share is that political heavyweight Chuck Baxter will not be part of the decision-making process.

“We are going to do our best to keep him out of the picture,” Giles said. “He has not proven himself to be anything good for this district. This school system shows his impact, unfortunately. We do not want any input from him.”

“…. He needs to be gone. What he has done to our school system makes me angry. Students come last for everything.”

Giles said Baxter still has supporters on both boards, but said that his impact on both government bodies will be greatly reduced under the new regimes.

Baxter had no comment when contacted for his take on the last election and his involvement with the new boards.

Giles said the new School Board trustees don’t want to turn away anyone who wants to help the district’s children.

“We plan on working with everybody, the students in the schools, the parents, the mayor,” Giles said.

“This is not just about the Dream Team. This is not just a few cosmetic things that we want to do. We want to make significant changes to our schools and we are making a commitment to that.”

Giles said the Dream Team member also commit to being stewards for the public.

“We are going to work as diligently as we can with the library and schools,” Giles said.

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